After a celebratory screening at the Kabuki Theatre in San Francisco last month, Murder In The Front Row: The San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Metal Story will make its public premiere with two screenings during SF DocFest, May 31 [sold out] + June 4 at the Roxie Theater.
Directed by Adam Dubin (Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right to Party” & “No Sleep ‘til Brooklyn”), the film contains over fifty interviews with various metal stalwarts, (including Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Exodus, Testament and Death Angel), telling its tall tales through a mix of first-person interviews, animation and narration by comedian Brian Posehn. The documentary has already garnered praise from The Playlist (B+), while being featured in the SF Chronicle, CBC News (SF), Billboard and Rolling Stone – watch the trailer.
Narratively, MITFR follows the story of a group of young kids in Northern California with a shared passion for heavy rock bands like UFO, Iron Maiden and Motorhead. “All these bands were mainly from England, and they never really toured the West Coast,” says Dubin. “So these young people started creating their own music, starting their own fanzines, booking clubs and trading tapes. These were people who were adamant about music and the bands, but also each other.”
Murder In The Front Row is loosely based on a 2012 photojournal of the same name by Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew. “What I loved about the book is that it wasn’t just about Metallica,” says Dubin. “It was documenting a vibrant scene, where all the bands were equal and there was real camaraderie. The photos captured the sweat of the clubs, the ringing in your ears and the power of young people. Harald and Brian captured the humanity of it, and they understood that I was somebody who could bring that out in a film.”
Another strength of the film is shedding light on bands who never hit the heights of Metallica but certainly cast a wide influence — thrash forefathers Exodus in particular. “There’s a big four of metal that should really be a big five and include Exodus,” says Dubin. “I particularly think the movie will inspire viewers to re-evaluate the contributions of Kirk Hammett, who founded Exodus in the Bay Area three years before Metallica came to town. Kirk was the central mover who put the band together, guided the music and found frontman wild man Paul Baloff.”
A veteran music and comedy documentarian, Dubin is an ideal match for the film’s subject matter. The New York native and NYU graduate (where he roomed with mega-producer Rick Rubin) has directed a number of documentaries for Metallica over the years, including their multi-platinum A Year And A Half In The Life Of Metallica Parts 1 & 2, Hit the Lights: The Making of Metallica Through the Never and Freeze ’em All: Metallica in Antarctica, along with the band’s music video for “Nothing Else Matters.”